Jan. 24, 2019

The emergence of air taxi services offering on-demand travel using general aviation (GA) aircraft is one of the most exciting recent developments in business aviation, with that market now growing to encompass the development of hybrid and electrically-powered vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) urban air taxi vehicles.

However, Linear Air Taxi CEO Bill Herp cautions that it’s important to separate the segment’s potential from the hype now surrounding it.

“In my experience, whenever there’s a new idea there’s a rush of resources and capital, but the bubble ultimately bursts,” said Herp, who learned this lesson firsthand as one of the earliest adopters of the GA air taxi model, founding Linear Air in 2004 intending to utilize a fleet of very light jets (VLJs) for point-to-point air travel.

That concept didn’t materialize, but the company has since found success in coordinating on-demand trips through a network of approximately 2,500 operators flying everything from piston-engine singles, up to turboprops and light jets. Herp now sees a similar process playing out with urban air taxi concepts.

“After the bubble bursts, what emerges is a rational growth phase in which the best ideas continue forward,” he said. “For example, while VLJ air taxis didn’t pan out, the broader emergence of technically advanced aircraft drove the opportunity to deploy those GA aircraft in Part 135 service.

“We’re in a new ‘hype’ cycle, driven by some big names including Uber and NASA and more than 100 companies and individuals looking to play in [the eVTOL] space,” Herp continued. “Although we probably aren’t going to see urban air taxis flying from office towers any time soon, what I think will emerge are greater pilot-assist technologies that may someday evolve into pilotless autonomous vehicles.”

These and other factors in this emerging segment will be discussed at the NBAA Regional Forum in West Palm Beach, FL on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Herp will cohost the session “The Future of Air Taxi – Separating Hype from Reality” at 1 p.m. with Peter Schmidt, chief operating officer of VTOL developer Transcend Air.

Learn more about the West Palm Beach Regional Forum.